Album review: RORY GALLAGHER – Check Shirt Wizard – Live In ’77

RORY GALLAGHER - Check Shirt Wizard – Live In ’77

Chess/UMC (2CD, 3LP, 3 LP coloured vinyl) [Release date 06.03.20]

Rory Gallagher is pretty much the first, last and foremost blues-rock guitarist, he was an influence on the likes of fellow Irish men Bernie Torme and Gary Moore, with the likes of Brian May, Ace Frehley, Ritchie Blackmore, Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton and Joe Bonamassa all measuring themselves against him. No effects, just man, amp and guitar all as one.

A life taken too soon, his drinking no small part, when Rory died in the mid 90s he left an enormous gap. Not necessarily through his studio output, which had become sporadic by then, but by his live performances. For Rory lived to play live, and always strove for that live feel in the studio. Anyone who knows Live In Europe, Irish Tour ’74 or Stage Struck can testify the passion, the power, the flow on stage, and that every song became so much more on stage.

With the catalogue managed by Gallagher’s brother and former manager Donal, one has to wonder why it’s taken so long for this multi-track recording to appear. Recorded across 4 shows in 1977, the band were promoting the Calling Card album. Originally a power trio, the band had expanded to feature a pianist and comprise of Rory on vocals, harmonica and guitar, bassist Gerry McAvoy, drummer Rod de’Ath and keyboard player Lou Martin.

Every track on disc 1 runs between 5 to 8 minutes, and every track is greeted by the audience like an old friend. There’s plenty of change of pace, yes there’s plenty of blistering jam amongst the songs, but mid paced tracks like Calling Card allow things to settle while still leaving room for a solo or two. And Rory takes a back seat to allow some ivory tinkling, a bar room blues feel, before the lead guitar comes back in.

In complete contrast, the absolute high octane blistering sky rocket slide guitar solo of the next track is really something to behold. Just allow yourself to be gobsmacked because it is going to happen. Don’t expect drum or bass solos like you get in other live albums, but they rhythm section does provide a very fine groove.

Disc 2 opens with the country infused acoustic Out on the Western Plain; even the acoustic picking Rory has off to a tee, although it’s something I wouldn’t want to much of. That said, Barley & Grape Rag is a fine short track, the change of pace and rhythm welcome. A few acoustic tracks in the middle of the show turns out to be a serious attraction.

Back to the electric guitar and a firm fan fave (a personal favourite too) is Bullfrog Blues. Whether Rory jams this for 5, 10 or 20 minutes (9 minutes here), this is the best head down knees up blistering boogie blues rock you’ll ever get your ears around.

A wonderful album beginning to end, and a fitting tribute to this wonderful guitarist.

Only one issue. OK, two issues, it doesn’t feature Daughter Of The Everglades, a personal favourite. But the one thing to flag up, is that it’s a compilation of 4 shows. And having the Irish Tour ’74 anniversary edition (and happy memories of the launch party at the Irish Embassy), a box of the complete shows? As a fan and collector I may be being picky, but there’s really nothing not to love about the set here. ****1/2

Review by Joe Geesin

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